Springboks captain Siya Kolisi a doubt for first Lions Test

Backrow was absent from Bulls defeat as he continues recovery from Covid-19

Siya Kolisi is a doubt for South Africa’s clash with the Lions on Saturday. Photograph: Behrouz Mefri/Getty/AFP

Siya Kolisi is a doubt for South Africa’s clash with the Lions on Saturday. Photograph: Behrouz Mefri/Getty/AFP

 

The Springboks captain Siya Kolisi, hooker Bongi Mbonambi and winger Makazole Mapimpi all appear to be in a race against time to be available for next Saturday’s first Test against the British & Irish Lions.

Whereas the rest of the Springboks squad were in attendance at the Cape Town Stadium for the South Afircan A side’s surprise defeat by the Bulls on Saturday, the aforementioned trio were not.

This strongly suggests they are still recovering from the effects of Covid and must be considered doubtful for the first Test next Saturday in Cape Town, although due to his importance, every effort will be made to have Kolisi in particular available.

Others whose medical well-being will be assessed over the next few days are Handre Pollard, Frans Malherbe, Frans Steyn and Ox Nche.

Following Saturday’s game, the Springboks head coach Jacques Nienaber said of Mapimpi: “It will depend on physical readiness and if he gets through his Covid protocols. He’s got a race to get out of his quarantine and get a return to play (clearance), and then we must make an informed decision on that.

It is clear that Boks will rely as much as possible on their World Cup winning team and formula, all the more so as they’ve played so little rugby collectively since then.

“There are some players who have been in our squad for 18 to 26 Test matches and obviously they have a good understanding of what we’re trying to do and how our system works. That will probably count for them.”

However fullback Willie le Roux is also a doubt for the first test due to a hamstring strain.

“I spoke to Willie this (Saturday) morning and he said he feels fine,” said Nienaber. “We will have to reassess and get a medical on him and all the injuries from Wednesday and today.”

Nienaber was understandably phlegmatic about the South African A side’s defeat, given it was a much changed line-up featuring players and combinations which will not feature against the Lions. The result will barely amount to a footnote in history, as the Bulls head coach Jake White, also a World Cup, maintained afterwards.

“I know you guys want me to say there’s a crisis and that there should be some headline news about this, but the Boks needed a hit out and had to give some guys game-time. There’s no way that this result will be an indication of what will happen next week when the Test series starts.

Although both of Saturday’s games went ahead as scheduled, they did so to the backdrop of Georgia coach Levan Maisashvili having suffered “serious lung damage” and he is in a Johannesburg hospital after testing positive for Covid-19.

Maisashvili is one of several members of the Georgia touring party who returned positive Covid tests after their Test against South Africa at the start of July and his condition has led to the coach being put on “artificial respiration”.

Georgia Rugby told Reuters in a statement: “We got several Covid cases just after the match in Pretoria, including Georgia’s head coach Levan Maisashvili, who is currently hospitalised with serious lung damage and is on artificial respiration.

“Everything is being done to improve Levan Maisashvili’s condition. He has been moved to one of South Africa’s top-level clinics, which is equipped with the most up-to-date medical equipment to manage Covid patients.

“The rest of the team has already returned to Georgia while Levan and the team doctor will stay in South Africa for as long as needed. Five more Covid-positive team members are finishing their recovery and will leave for Georgia on Sunday.”

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